Finding an apartment in France is perhaps one of the most daunting tasks known to TAPIF assistants and lecteurs. It is something that is completely out of our control until we arrive, but something we need to do before we can do anything else (open a bank account, register with the French government, etc.)
There is a lot of conflicting advice in regards to finding housing in France. Some blogs will tell you to do it straight away; others will tell you to wait until you arrive in France. I agree with the ladder– do not invest too much time looking at housing until you arrive in France. It is much better to see your options in person, meet your roommates or potential landlord, get a feel for the neighborhood during both the day and nighttime hours, and not wire a lump sum of cash to someone you’ve never met. Not to mention, the chances are that without a French phone number, you won’t get very far.
However, if you want to get ahead in your search during the summer months, here’s what I recommend:
- Use the “Who you know Option.” Ask your prof référent if the school provides housing for you, or if they have the contact information for the past assistant. Perhaps they have a lead that way. Do you know anyone from study abroad? Perhaps they’ll know of something. (I have a few great contacts for my readers who ask!)
- Figure out where you’ll stay in the meantime. I know many assistants who were able to stay with their teachers for free until they found a place to live. In my case, I have stayed in a hostel, with a family friends, and on the couch of a fellow lecteur. However, if your school is not responsive or you do not know anyone in France, simply book yourself into a hostel or an AirBnb (click my link for an 18€ reduction off your first stay!) for a few days.
- Start familiarizing yourself with Housing Websites. There are many different websites one can use to find housing in France, although the 0ne I recommend is:
- Le Bon Coin: For all of my accommodations in France (with the exception of Lille) I have used this website to find both roommates and flats, as well as to sell some things of my own (it’s a better, less sketchy version of Craig’s List).
The TAPIF organization also sends out a huge e-document at the beginning of summer with about twenty other housing websites.
4. Make a list of requirements and “must-haves.” While looking for a place to live, there were a few requirements I was searching for:
- Furnished (meublé and équipé)
- A washing machine
- Central Location- In the city center, close to a bus/tram/metro line, and in a safe neighborhood
- My own room
- Something that qualified for CAF (APL)
5. Familiarize yourself with French Housing Vocabulary. Here are some essentials:
- le logement- housing
- le bail- the lease
- le loyer- the rent
- colocation- housing for rent with roommates
- locataire- the renter
- propriétaire- the landlord
- meublé/pas meublé- furnished/not furnished
- les charges- utilities
- hors charges- without charges
- charges compris dans le loyer- utilities
- EDF- Electricity
- un clic-clac- futon
- un mini-four- toaster oven, mini-oven
- les plaques de cuisson/plaques électriques- stovetop burners/a hot plate
- la caution- deposit
- la quittance de loyer- proof of renting agreement
- Taxe d’habitation- housing tax paid at the end of the year
- CAF = Caisse d’allocations familiales
- RIB (pronounced reeb)- relevé d’identité bancaire, or your bank account details
Once you’re in France, start looking at listings online and setting up appointments. Go visit the apartments in person!
General Tips / Advice:
- Don’t assume you are going to get CAF right away, if at all. From what I’ve read, many assistants have had more and more difficulties with receiving CAF. France has reduced the payments a lot. If you cannot afford your apartment/flat without CAF, you may just need to keep looking.
- Ask questions- as foreigners we are vulnerable. Know your rights and stand up for yourself. Know the expectations in regards to a security deposit, renter’s insurance, the Taxe d’habitation, utilities / rent, roommates, etc.
- Some French landlords require a garant, or someone who is willing to co-sign your lease in case you do not pay the rent. I recommend asking if your arrêt de nomination or university contract will work as proof of income (it usually does). Otherwise, either try searching for apartments which do not require garants, or, if you know someone in France, maybe ask them if they will be your garant.
- If you’re unsure of your neighborhood, come back at visit at night.
- Listen to your gut. Don’t feel like you have to settle, and do not be afraid to move if it does not work out. If and when you need to move out, the law in France is one month’s notice for a furnished place, and a three month’s notice for an unfurnished place.
- Overall, advocate for yourself. Be persistent. But if you find something good, grab it!
La Taxe d’habitation
The Taxe d’Habitation is a property tax which all residents of France are required to pay each year. As an assistant or lecteur you will most likely be required to pay this tax. The tax is based on where you were living on January 1st of that year (so, even if you move on January 2nd, you will be required to pay for your housing based on your January 1st residence.) Usually, the tax is billed in October and is paid in November– so many of you will have already left France. So, if that is the case, keep your bank account open!
If you live in a colocation, you are required to split the tax amongst your roommates. The best thing to do would be to inquire about specific details regarding the tax with your landlords and roommates before signing a lease. If your landlords are organized, there may already be a process in place.
Just DO NOT be that asshole who tries to get out of paying or refuses to pay. This works both ways– don’t live with people you do not trust completely, or think will flake out on you when it comes time to pay up.
Toulon- Assistant Year
When I first arrived in Toulon, I ended up initially looking at three different places: one apartment I found and scheduled on my own, one apartment with two other assistants, and a studio that my host mom found for me via her sister’s friends. I narrowed it down and ended up going with the studio. However, I chose price over comfort and found myself miserable for the first couple of months. So, come January I moved into a new apartment in the center of Toulon with French and foreign roommates until the end of my contract.
First Toulon Studio: September-December 2013
Second Toulon Apartment: January-April 2014
For advice on what to do if you need to move, check out my post here.
Valenciennes- Lectrice Year 1
As I was literally relocating to the other side of France, I moved all of my things home and started afresh in August. I found and I moved into an awesome house in the center of town with two other roommates; one moved out in January (and later screwed us over with the tax d’habitation), but I absolutely loved living in this house.
House in Valenciennes: September 2014-May 2015
To see my house in Valenciennes, check out my post here.
Lille- Lectrice Year 2
My easiest move was from Valenciennes to Lille. I simply packed my things up on the train and moved into a house with my friends in Lille. I took over another colleague’s lease and have been there ever since.
House in Lille: June 2015-Present